Gibbes Street Party has great panache

As I eagerly count down the days until the seventh-annual Street Party, it’s hard not to be in awe of the team of individuals who volunteer their time and resources to make this event happen each year. From the dedicated committee and the generous food and beverage community, to the wonderful supporters of the arts and the special events team at the City of Charleston, we all come together to transform Meeting Street into the party of the year.

Gibbes Street Party

Gibbes on the Street transforms Meeting Street into a delight for the senses.

The Street Party committee is made up of 18 individuals who all bring their talents to the table when discussing themes, décor, fundraising, layouts, and entertainment. We are known for our creative themes and décor, and this year will be no different. This year we will celebrate The Year of the Gibbes in a Chinese New Year setting. Hundreds of red lanterns will be lit, sounds of drums will beat, and vibrant visuals of reds and yellows will surround. Did I mention we only have 1.5 hours for setup? As décor continues to come in, my office walls seem to be gradually closing in. I now dream of floating lanterns and traditional drummers and I’ll probably never be able to look at the color red again without thinking of China’s Forbidden City.

Street Party collateral

Invitations, tickets, sponsor badges, and other details for The Year of the Gibbes celebration.

red lanterns

Red lanterns take over event coordinator Jena Clem’s office.

The décor and entertainment are only one part of the Street Party though. Each year, we fill the streets with Charleston’s best chefs who create customized menus to fit our theme. I suggest skipping lunch and dinner, because you will want to save room for every morsel, and I can bet you’ll go back for seconds!

Street Party Chefs

Charleston’s top chefs prepare scrumptious bites for party-goers.

Having James Beard Award winning chefs on the street each year wouldn’t be possible without the sensational Mr. Mickey Bakst. This year he managed to secure 27 restaurants, and did it in less than a day. I keep telling him I’m going to thank him with a cake shaped like his face, and he may just get that surprise on May 12.

The Gibbes Street Party would not be possible without the fabulous Mickey Bakst.

The Gibbes Street Party would not be possible without the fabulous Mickey Bakst.

Lastly, this event wouldn’t be possible without our generous supporters. Each year we reach our sponsorship goal because of the hard work of the committee, restaurants, and vendors who support our efforts. It takes team work to create a seamless success and it is always done with such panache. If you haven’t experienced this event in years past, I encourage you to purchase tickets today because we will sell out. It is a joy and privilege to work alongside those who are as passionate about supporting the arts and the Gibbes Museum as I am, and we look forward to seeing you on the street May 12! Now if you’ll excuse me, another shipment of red lanterns has arrived.

Street Party guests

Party-goers and Gibbes Board members Michele and Mike Seekings, Laura Gates and Lou Hammond.

Society 1858 on the Street

Society 1858 members never miss a Street Party!

Art-lovers flock to the Gibbes on the Street celebration.

Art-lovers flock to the Gibbes on the Street celebration.

To purchase Street Party tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/StreetParty or call Amanda Breen at 843.722.2706 x221.

Jena Clem, Special Events Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Sculpture under the Dome

When the Gibbes reopens on May 28, visitors will be welcomed to freshly renovated gallery spaces throughout the Museum. One of the most spectacular transformations is the newly named Campbell Rotunda, now restored to its original Beaux Arts architectural grandeur, and returned to its intended use as a sculpture gallery.

Rotunda Gallery, 1935.

Rotunda Gallery, 1935, before the woodwork was painted and the floor was covered.

Gibbes Rotunda, ca. 1960

Rotunda Gallery, ca. 1960, after it was painted and the floor was covered in linoleum.

The Campbell Rotunda exemplifies—in its original woodwork, flooring, and distinguished stained-glass dome—the classical forms and ornate renaissance detailing typical of Beaux Arts-style architecture. However, over the last hundred years many of these special architectural details were altered or masked. Recent renovations have rectified these modifications. The elaborately-patterned, red and green tile flooring has been revealed for the first time since 1935 when it was covered with linoleum and later carpeting. The ornamental oak woodwork, painted over in the 1930s to neutralize the decorative detailing, has been restored to its original finish. Finally, the stained-glass dome, characterized by its vibrant red, green, and yellow Greek-meander pattern, has been cleaned of decades of dust and debris, and outfitted with the latest in LED lighting to ensure its luminosity throughout the day.

Original Rotunda Floor, ca. 1974

The original Rotunda floor, ca. 1974, after linoleum was removed and before carpet was installed.

Beneath the dome, The Campbell Rotunda will showcase nineteenth-century neoclassical sculpture. Featuring works by both American and Italian artists such as Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, and Giuseppe Ceracchi the gallery will explore the emergence of the first professional school of American sculptors, all of whom trained and worked in Italy where they had easy access to Tuscan marble and skilled carvers. Thanks to funds provided by McGuire Family foundation, new sculpture acquisitions including Faith by Hiram Powers and Helen of Troy by Pierce Francis Connelly will join perennial favorites Veiled Lady, by Pietro Rossi, and Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson), by Horatio Greenough, in the newly renovated space.

Helen of Troy, 1867, by Pierce Francis Connelly (American, 1841–1932)

Helen of Troy, 1867, by Pierce Francis Connelly (American, 1841–1932). Marble. Museum purchase with funds from the William B. McGuire, Jr. Family Foundation (2014.009.0002)

Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi (Italian, active 1856 - 1882)

Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi (Italian, active 1856–1882). Marble; 28 3/8 x 20 1/2 inches; 42 1/2 x 39 x 18 1/8 inches (base). Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Julian Mitchell (1910.011.0001)

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Curatorial Perspective: Preparing for the Reopening

While the Gibbes has been under renovation, I am often asked, “What does the staff do while the museum is closed?” Behind the scenes, we are working harder than ever to reopen a stunning museum fit for the beautiful city we serve. For me, the pace has been frantic, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to focus on our collection and do some serious research and writing.

Gibbes Staff third floor

Gibbes staff test signage options in the third floor galleries.

During renovation, our curatorial team has worked hard to develop new interpretive approaches to the Gibbes collection. We began by researching best practices in museum interpretation and looking to our peers for examples of effective writing. From this, we developed a list of guiding principles to keep us on track. Our goal is to engage visitors and help them to see art in new ways. We aim to tell compelling stories with clarity and brevity, with the hope that visitors will find meaningful connections with the art on view.

Samples of exhibition text and collateral

Writing and proofing copy for gallery text and exhibition collateral.

But drafting the text is only half the battle. From there it goes through several rounds of proofreading and then into the hands of our talented Creative Director, Erin Banks, for design. Several rounds of edits later, it is off to the printer for fabrication. In the meantime, there are many gallery installation details to work through: paint colors to select, fabric samples to review, gallery layouts to design, casework to be delivered. The list goes on and on.

Fabric swatches for gallery cases.

Decisions… decisions… fabric swatches for gallery cases.

Now that we are in the homestretch of the Gibbes renovation, it is exciting to see our work come to life. After years of planning and many months of research and writing, seeing words in print means we are one step closer to our goal of reopening this beautifully renovated museum. I can’t wait for that day—see you on May 28!

Sample text panels and object labels.

Reviewing layouts for sample text panels and object labels.

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Society 1858 Impacts Careers of Contemporary Southern Artists

Applications for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art are streaming in and we are excited to see what the 2016 group of submissions will look like! This will be the eighth year the Prize has been awarded and the third year since we began receiving and archiving the submissions online at 1858prize.org. An invaluable tool for our panel of judges and applicants by streamlining the application and review process, the website doubles as a searchable online archive and an amazing repository of contemporary southern art. Anyone from curators and collectors, to academics and the general public, can access the work of over 500 artists from eleven states. And this will continue to grow and grow as a new group of Prize applicants is added to the archive each year. The potential for this one-of-a-kind archive to become a significant resource and tool is an added bonus and exciting component of the Prize.

1858prize.org

First and foremost, this significant annual award of $10,000 is made possible by the collaborative efforts of many people. The Prize is funded by Society 1858, a member auxiliary group of the Museum; and is judged and awarded by a panel of visual arts professionals, museum representatives, and Gibbes staff members. In the last seven years, the Prize has recognized some of the most compelling and thought-provoking work coming out of the South, reframing the way people think about contemporary southern art. From Deborah Luster’s powerful and evocative portraits of prisoners in Louisiana (2015 Winner, Louisiana) to Patrick Dougherty’s whimsical site-specific sculptures made entirely of twigs and branches (2011 Winner, North Carolina), the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art recognizes artists who are making an impact that will be recognized for generations to come.

Patrick Dougherty

I have been thrilled to be a part of the process—working with my co-chair Liza Cleveland, our board chair Jamieson Clair, and the amazing Gibbes staff—to coordinate the events surrounding the 2016 award. After the success of last year’s dinner program with winner Deborah Luster, we realized that the opportunity to hear directly from the artists about their process—and the impact that the award will have on their lives and work—was an element that was lacking in the current format. This year, the Prize will be all the more anticipated with the reopening of the Gibbes giving us an opportunity to add several new components to the program. I am particularly excited that this year’s winner will be announced in advance of the award event—allowing for the opportunity to promote the artist and raise awareness about their work prior to the award ceremony. We plan to include an artist talk as well as a panel discussion around the award celebration, which will be held in our beautiful new museum. Also, on view at that time will be The Things We Carry (May 28–October 9), an exhibition featuring the work of eleven Prize finalists and winners in response to the Emanuel AME tragedy last June. Society 1858 is pleased to be a sponsor of this exhibition!

Deborah Luster

Deborah Luster was awarded the 1858 Prize in 2015.

I encourage everyone to visit the website at 1858prize.org where you can browse through all 528 applicants from the past two years. The search options are endless—you can see the work of the five artists who submitted work from Kentucky; or discover that there has been only one submission by a sculptor from Arkansas but nineteen from Georgia. The deadline for this year’s applications is May 31st, and the short list of finalists will be announced over the summer. I hope everyone will spread the word to potential applicants and will stay tuned for the announcement of the 2016 winner.

Anja Kelley, 1858 Prize Co-chair and guest blogger

We <3 our Members!

As the Gibbes Museum prepared to close in August of 2014 for renovations, staff had planned for years to make the transition flow as seamlessly as possible. Artwork was packed and stored offsite, funds were raised, locations for programs and events were secured, in-school programs were organized and membership benefits were altered. Myself and others in the Development department set to work designing new benefits that would continue to engage our members even though we did not have a museum to offer. This required some creative thinking from the entire staff as to how each department could expand their outreach towards our members. We understood that we would lose some members as a result of not having the museum open, but hoped that many members would continue to support the institution through this period. I’m happy to report that the continued support of our members, even while closed, has been overwhelming! Not only did we retain a vast majority of members, but we’ve welcomed many new members who have joined since we closed!

Philippe de Montebello 2015 Distinguished Lecturer

Philippe de Montebello speaks to a full house at the 2015 Distinguished Lecture Series at Memminger Auditorium.

Society 1858's Stork Club

Society 1858 hosted Stork Club, their annual winter fundraiser, at No. 5 Faber in January.

For the past 18 months, one of the main benefits of membership that the Museum emphasized was our extensive schedule of educational programs, classes for adults and children, and legendary parties. Members receive discounted tickets to these events and were the first to hear about them. Not only did we retain the same number of programs hosted when the Museum was open, but we added dozens more, including the Insider Art series which featured exclusive art viewing opportunities around town. Exploring these new venues and meeting all of our wonderful members and supporters is one of my favorite parts of being the Membership Coordinator at the Museum. Whether it’s at events, on the phone or via email, I get the chance to interact with our members on a daily basis and share in the excitement for these programs and the artistic community in Charleston. I feel honored and blessed to share in the excitement surrounding the reopening of the Gibbes.

Insider Art with Andrew Brunk

Brunk Auctions president, Andrew Brunk, spoke to a crowd at the Gibbes Museum’s Insider Art Series.

If you’ve been a member of the Gibbes family for years, or are just hearing about the Museum for the first time, there has never been a better time to become a member or renew your membership! New membership benefits and prices will go into effect on May 1st, so renew now to take advantage of our current pricing. All members will receive free admission to the Museum, discounts on programs and classes, and those at the Family level and above receive reciprocal (free or discounted) admission at over 800 museums throughout the United States and Canada. The Museum is scheduled to reopen to the public on May 28 and we have a wonderful lineup of exhibitions and programs that you will not want to miss.

Gibbes Museum of Art

The Gibbes Museum of Art

Gibbes on the Street: The Year of the Gibbes: May 12, 7:30-10pm – Please join us for our annual celebration in front of the Gibbes Museum on Meeting Street for a night filled with delicious bites from some of Charleston’s best restaurants. (Members $150, Non Members $175)

Museum Members Preview: May 27, 3-6pm – All museum members are invited to tour the renovated building and exhibitions before the Museum opens to the public on May 28. (Free)

http://www.gibbesmuseum.org/explore/upcom_exhibit2.php?id=114: May 28–October 9 – This exhibition celebrates George Gershwin’s famed opera, Porgy and Bess, as interpreted by visual artists since its creation. The exhibition includes a number of paintings from the 1930s era, including works by American realist George Biddle and paintings by Gershwin himself. The 1930s works are paired with more recent interpretations by contemporary artists Kara Walker and Jonathan Green.

The Things We Carry: Contemporary Art in the South: May 28–October 9 – The Things We Carry features paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed media works by a diverse group of contemporary artists. This exhibition addresses the difficult history of the south and the ways it is manifest today and provides a place where the Charleston community and visitors alike can come together to discuss the city’s past and the impact of the tragic 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting, as well as celebrate the community’s response to social challenges.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Grand Reopening: May 28, 10am – Please join the Gibbes Board of Directors, elected officials, and distinguished guests on the front plaza for the Grand Reopening of the Museum! (Free for Members. Included with Museum Admission for Non-Members)

Not sure if you’re a member or if your membership is current? Give me a call at 843.722.2706 x221 or email me at abreen@gibbesmuseum.org. I would love to hear from you, and from all of us at the Gibbes, we hope to see you this summer when we officially reopen!

Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator, Gibbes Museum of Art

Visiting Artists Coming to the Gibbes

With temperatures going up and scaffolding coming down, it is clear that the reopening of the Gibbes on May 28th is fast approaching. During my second semester as an intern at the Gibbes, I have been given the opportunity to see a lot of projects develop and cannot wait to see them come to life this spring. One of the projects I have been most excited about is the Visiting Artist program that will have a home in the Museum’s new first floor studios. Not only will the Visiting Artist program give the community opportunities to interact with the artists, but the series will be a great way to intersperse contemporary art into Charleston’s understanding of art in the South. The first visiting artist will be Sonya Clark, the 2014 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Soutnern Art, who will be in the studio from May 28–June 2.

Clark’s is known for her unique choices in media including beads, combs, and human hair. Her work not only addresses issues such as race, culture, class, and history but also aims to make a personal connection to viewers. During her time in Charleston, she will bring to the Gibbes an interactive project called “Pluck and Grow.” This installation is a collaborative piece between Clark and Museum visitors. Clark uses hair as metaphor for what connects us as humans, separates us into racial groups, and makes us individuals. The artist invites people to write their “hair stories” on a piece of paper—whether that be a poem, a story, or a drawing. The paper will be dyed in varying shades of black, brown, and blonde to give the appearance of human hair and Clark will twist and insert them into “follicles” drilled into a surface, referencing a human head. Once on display, Clark invites viewers to pluck a strand, read the story, and replace it with their own hair story on a slip of white paper. As these new stories replace the original ones, the piece will take on the appearance of aging—as real human hair would.

Pluck and Grow by Sonya Clark

A detail of an installation of “Pluck and Grow” by Sonya Clark.

This installation piece will provide a great opportunity for visitors to engage with the artist, and I think it is a perfect way to introduce the Visiting Artist program at the Gibbes. I know that Sonya Clark isn’t the only amazing artist they have lined up—painter Jill Hooper will be in the studio immediately following Clark as she prepares for a large-scale fresco in Jerusalem, Israel. I am so excited for what the future of this program holds!

Valerie Coughlin, College of Charleston intern and guest blogger

Art of Healing: Embracing the Fall

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. – Chinese Proverb

Embrace the Fall (ETF) is the essential roadmap for turning our biggest challenges into life’s greatest gifts. When life changes in a big way, it can strip us down to an otherwise undiscovered, uncomfortable level of vulnerability. When submerged in it, trauma feels like a sign glued to our forehead that binds us to the fear that surfaces. However, at its best, trauma offers a surprisingly fresh perspective that propels us to an all new level of seeing life through a clearer lens to create a life we love.

Responses to stress range. Circumstances vary. In any traumatic situation, we can consider the event we are experiencing, our unique personality, and perhaps even our ability to be (as researcher Brené Brown puts it) bouncy. Yes, some people bounce back after suffering faster than others. Yet if we understand what gives us that element of resilience, we can adopt practices that produce brighter outcomes.

Caryn Antos O'Hara

Caryn Antos O’Hara

As a two-time colon cancer survivor and someone who knows the rug-pulled-from-under-you feeling well, the design of this program is one chock-full of insightful exercises. We get to the heart of our personal reality, drop the story, and choose thankfulness. We spice things up by getting creative and finding our fun. We gain deeper self-awareness and play with tension relievers to embrace what is within even while doing without. We will breathe and move with intention, reflect, write, release, and laugh.

The ETF program is a combination of mindfulness practices all proven to alter the patterns of the brain that allow us to see life differently, even during the darkest moments of our lives. By using this toolbox consistently we change the perception of our experience. Consequently, we change our entire existence. This is called neuroplasticity, which is the same phenomenon that happens when stroke patients recapture brain function and regain body control. Once we learn to feel more gratitude and compassion during the perceived “fall”, we land on the other side stronger than we ever imagined possible.

Neuroplasticity

Joseph Campbell refers to the evolution of a warrior as the Hero’s Journey. When we are in the midst of struggle, there is a point around which we can pivot and redirect our trajectory. With the willingness to get out of our own way, we clarify our thinking. What we once saw as an obstacle is no longer. This is when connection to something larger happens. The end result is more clarity, better health, and creative ideas that ignite our passions. Consequently our artistic expression moves into full swing.

The Hero's Journey

It’s that simple. We learn the tools. We practice using them. Then our response to change becomes a gratitude reflex. So the next time a traumatic experience knocks on our door, we greet it like the familiar friend that it is.

Caryn Antos O’Hara, E-RYT and guest blogger

Join Caryn on Monday, March 15, for the Art of Healing workshop, Embrace the Fall: The Heart of Healing, from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Register online now.

Behind the Lens: A Photographer’s Account of the Gibbes Museum Renovation

Over a year ago I reached out to the Gibbes Museum of Art requesting to document their current renovation. My original motivation was a curiosity that led to an exploration of transition.

Over the past few years my wife, Corrie McGovern, has captured events for the Gibbes use in their marketing, annual report, social media, and newsletters. We appreciate the Gibbes’ contribution to our community including art education and exposure, the various lecture series, Art of Healing program, art classes in a variety of mediums, and on and on. So luckily I knew who to ask for access inside. But given the odd nature of the ask I wasn’t sure what the answer would be. Gratefully, the answer was yes.

I have a layman’s appreciation for architecture. Growing up, our neighbor had a subscription to Architectural Digest and I would get lost in the imagery and subject matter. Maybe I appreciated the functional art aspect? There was even a time in my photography career that I trained to be an architectural photographer. Today my art contains the lines and structures often found in architectural photography.

First floor windows are reopened to the exterior.

First floor windows now open to the exterior. ©James McGavick

The Rotunda Gallery.

The Rotunda Gallery filled with construction supplies.
©James McGavick

I believe the Gibbes renovation was a few months into the project on my first visit, so I found the building just as I had hoped. Raw. Plaster gone or scored. Fixtures removed. Exposed brick, beams, wood and tile. From sections of dirt on the ground floor to the inside of the ornate glass dome. The shell of what had housed art for over a century getting a makeover to perhaps take it another century. It was this time in between that called to me artistically. I wanted to record the window of transition. While feeling at home with the architectural aspect, the environment of a historic remodel was foreign, new and exciting. This organized chaos soon to be gone and forgotten.

The Rotunda dome seen from above.

The Rotunda dome seen from above. ©James McGavick

First floor promenade

Crews removed the dropped ceiling in the promenade to reveal original height of the hallway. ©James McGavick

Charleston has amazing weather most of the year but it’s not without swings. And the conditions on a construction site are the same as outside, just add a hard hat and tungsten lights. From below freezing concrete in the chill of winter to summer’s blazing heat of a bright metal roof top with a heat index over 115 f. degrees. Sprinkle that with the dust and fumes you would expect from a construction site of this type. Toss in occasional wires, open stair wells, hanging pipes and a dome ladder that is not for those with height issues.

ornamental railing of the south staircase

A view through a doorway to the ornamental railing of the south staircase. ©James McGavick

North ornamental staircase.

The north ornamental staircase, removed in the 1970s renovation, in process of reinstallation. ©James McGavick

My intention was to capture “what was” with available light. By “what was” I mean that I did not contrive or move objects. What you see is what was in the frame. And by “available light” I mean that I did not add or manipulate light in any way. No strobes, flashes, tungsten, hot lights, etc. Again, what you see is what was available. These parameters proved to be a creative challenge in balancing subject matter with daylight, sunlight, tungsten, fluorescent.

Scaffolding in the Rotunda Gallery.

Scaffolding in the Rotunda Gallery. ©James McGavick

This self-assigned project has an organic beginning and end. Gone will be the evidence of the hard work done by so many. Soon finishing touches will be applied to the paint, art will be displayed, and the doors will open once again to Charleston’s residents and visitors alike. I will miss my solo time with the bones of the building but I look forward to visiting the renovated Gibbes.

James D. McGavick, photographer and guest blogger

James and his wife Corrie have a Charleston based photography studio that specializes in the art of people; Weddings, Portraits and Events—www.MCGPhotography.com. More of James’ art can be seen on his website, www.JamesMcGavick.com

Charleston Receipts: Junior Docents on the Go

During the Gibbes Museum renovation, we’ve taken our Junior Docent program on the road! Several local institutions, like the Charleston Museum, have helped out by providing rich resources for students to research and a venue for them to present their findings. Two Ashley Hall students share their experiences with this program, here and in the previous post.

In the very last week of October 2015, the whole seventh grade at Ashley Hall was gathered together. Our English teachers stood at the front of the room, about to assign our second quarter project. Once everyone was situated, they started speaking.

We were going to explore more about Charleston’s history. To do so, each of us would be assigned to research a different aspect of our city’s history. To that end, we would write an informative essay on the topic we were assigned, and prepare an oral presentation to give at the Charleston Museum.
I was assigned the topic “suppertime in the Lowcountry during the mid-19th century.” I started by finding reliable sources to use for research. I ordered a book entitled, Forgotten Elegance, written by Wendell and Wes Schollander, and went to the Historic Charleston Foundation to gather information on my topic. It was interesting to learn about the ingredients, such as turtle, that people in the 1800s in Charleston, South Carolina, would use in their recipes; and the silver pieces they would decorate their tables with.

Mia Lassiter, Gibbes Museum Junior docent

Mia Lassiter with the book she found on her assigned topic, “Suppertime in the Lowcountry.”

Halfway through November, my English class took a trip to the Charleston Museum. We listened to Pat and Elise, the Gibbes museum docents, as they spoke about the history of Charleston. We observed how they engaged, educated, and entertained their audience. We were then led around the museum, finding which glass case we would stand before to give our speech. I was to speak in front of a case filled with beautiful silver flatware and pitchers, similar to what would have decorated a dining room table in the Lowcountry during the 1800s.

Finally, it was the second week of December—exam week. Tuesday morning rolled around, and I found myself standing in the lobby of the Charleston Museum. I was so nervous to give my speech. It would only be in front of half of my class and their parents, yet still I had butterflies in my stomach. Once everyone arrived, my classmates and I lead the group upstairs. Two girls introduced our assignment, and then people started to present.

When the student before me started giving her speech, a group of elementary school children entered the museum. They made quite a racket, speaking to each other and pointing at things in the glass cases. I felt bad for the girl who was speaking, as she had a loud group in the background, and hoped that the children wouldn’t drown out my presentation.

After what seemed like ten seconds, but was really five minutes, it was my turn to speak. I had to lead parents and my teacher to the section of the museum where the silver flatware and pitchers were located. I walked ahead of the group, but was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find the right glass case. Doubt crept into my mind, and I felt anxious. I had only been shown where it was once, and that had been a month ago.

I did, however, find the right place with ease. Once I saw the shining silver pieces reflected in the glass case in front of me, I knew I was in the right place. It felt like one heavy weight was lifted off of me, and the second one would be gone after my presentation. I started to talk, but the elementary children had followed us, and I could barely hear what I was saying, so my audience probably couldn’t either! I tried to speak up, but I have a quiet voice, so I found it hard. I felt like I was screaming over echoing sounds of excited school children!

Soon, it was time for me to conclude my speech, and I introduced the next girl who would speak. She lead us over to another part of the museum, and I finally felt relieved. It was all over! I had finished my presentation, my paper was turned in weeks beforehand, and I could relax.

Following the holiday break, my class received our badges in English class. They had our names on them with the words, “Junior Docent.” My experience as a junior docent was very nerve-wracking, but fun at the same time. I enjoyed learning about Charleston’s culture and history while working on my assignment. At the museum, I learned many new and interesting facts about Charleston, as well. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to practice orally presenting at the Charleston Museum.

Mia Lassiter, 7th grader at Ashley Hall and a Gibbes Museum Junior Docent

Ahoy Maties! Junior Docents on the Go

During the Gibbes Museum renovation, we’ve taken our Junior Docent program on the road! Several local institutions, like the Charleston Museum, have helped out by providing rich resources for students to research and a venue for them to present their findings. Two Ashley Hall students share their experiences with this program, here and in the next post.

I’m Ainslee Newman, a seventh grader at Ashley Hall. This past December, we were assigned a project discussing what makes Charleston special. Throughout our research we discovered so many new things from the past, and I was surprised to find out that much of that history still relates to our community! Each girl in our class got the opportunity to tell about her subject and educate the people of town. After a couple months of preparation, we were ready to be junior docents at the Charleston Museum! However, our job wasn’t just putting our research into a paper and talking, it was also learning how to engage, entertain, and educate our audience. Engaging them meant understanding the appropriate time to ask questions, and getting the audience interested. Entertaining them meant knowing what fun facts to tell that might not be known by other people. Educating them meant teaching important information about our topic and the unique history of Charleston.

Ainslee Newman presents to classmates at the Charleston Museum.

Ainslee Newman presents to classmates at the Charleston Museum.

Once it was time for me to present, I was a bundle of nerves, but while I was speaking, I started to feel more comfortable, because I knew everything I was supposed to say and had plenty of information. Since my presentation was about pirates, I had to become an expert about them around Charles Town in the early 1700s. I was not the only one that had to learn a lot—my other classmates did too, so I was able to absorb in other topics as well!

From this Junior Docent project I learned not only about this remarkable city, but also the skills to make my pirate presentation and all of my future presentations their very best. This project was a great experience to be a part of, and the Charleston Museum helped me and my English class grasp special parts of history, and helped us engage, entertain, and educate not only our audience, but also each other.

Ainslee Newman, 7th grader at Ashley Hall and a Gibbes Museum Junior Docent

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